In today’s world, lack of sleep is almost like a badge of honor. People proudly declare their ability to function on much less than the recommended 8 hours, as if this somehow makes them less lazy than the rest of us. If we are up all night it adds to the martyrdom of the overworked and underappreciated.
In an effort to keep this post from reaching epic lengths, I suggest that Googling the phrase “lack of sleep” will lead to you some very interesting information on the effects of sleep deprivation. An example of one thing I learned is this; Driving while sleep deprived can actually make you less safe than driving while intoxicated. Not many people would think that driving under the influence of alcohol is a good idea, and yet they will drive under the influence of sleep deprivation.
We live in a culture that doesn’t place much value on sleep. Jeff told me of his summer job working at a paper mill. He worked the dreaded swing shift, which consisted of 7AM-3PM, then a week of 11PM-7AM, followed by 3PM-11AM. 7 days a week, all summer long. (DUDE! No WONDER we didn’t see much of you at the pool!) My son is a first year medical resident, and his hours are not much different than Jeff’s were at that paper mill. He will work several weeks of night shifts, followed by a weekend of days, then a week of night shift, followed by a weekend of days. It’s difficult to become acclimated when the hours are so irregular. In his case, he resorts to blacking out the windows of his guest room during the day, and puts a priority on getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
Sleep is restorative. It is when the body repairs itself. The harmful physical effects of lack of sleep are very real. We NEED to sleep. It keeps us more clear- headed, our moods more even, and it even helps our appearance. And yet so many of us don’t make it a priority. Yes, it is important to exercise. Yes, it is important to be productive in our lives. But we are much better able to do that with the proper rest. During a particularly stressful period of my life, I wound up so run down from lack of sleep that I ended up in my doctor’s office. One of the first things he asked me was how much sleep I was getting. I told him that I didn’t have a choice but to wake up with the 6AM alarm. He reminded me that even if waking time wasn’t within my control, bedtime was. I said that I tried really hard to force myself to relax and sleep, and he came back with something that was so logical and so basic that it kind of shocked me. He said we can’t force ourselves to sleep; we must ALLOW ourselves to sleep.